SKOWHEGAN — The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life for many people, and this is certainly true of Angie Herrick and the other staff members at the Skowhegan Free Public Library.
They have had to adjust to new safety protocols and fluctuating customer turnout. And as the pandemic has lingered, they have provided new programs, such as curbside book deliveries, and made other adjustments.
Herrick’s efforts overseeing such changes during a tumultuous time have not gone unnoticed. The Maine Library Association has named her the Outstanding Librarian of the Year.
Herrick has worked as the children’s librarian at the Skowhegan library for 11 years, and more recently took on the role of library director.
“My co-workers, a few library board trustees, our volunteer and my husband all surprised me with flowers and a banner,” said Herrick, 43.
The lengthy process of naming a top librarian in the state was initiated by letters from Skowhegan library patrons in support of Herrick and her work.
“There was quite a good amount of support throughout the community for her to get this award,” said Karen Lewia, who sits on the Bloomfield Academy board of trustees, which oversees the library and other sites in Skowhegan.
Herrick said the state is “full of library workers doing amazing things.”
“I didn’t consider myself to be doing anything extraordinary,” she said.
Herrick grew up in Guilford, near Dover-Foxcroft, and moved to Skowhegan in 2002, shortly after graduating from Thomas College in Waterville.
As the library director, Herrick is in charge of creating and managing the library budget. She also plays a significant role in creating programming for the community.
“I want to create a community hub that is trusted and utilized by the people in the community,” Herrick said. “Skowhegan is becoming an increasingly diverse community, and I try my hardest to mirror that in what we offer.”
Staff members and volunteers at the library have become “an amazing and cohesive team,” Herrick said. “We have learned when to lean on each other and how best to support each other.”
Herrick began serving as the library director in 2018. Although she initially accepted the position on an interim basis, she eventually decided to take on the role as a permanent assignment.
“You know, I think it was hard for her to give up the children’s librarian position,” Lewia said. “But I think she also liked the idea of having a bigger role in the direction that our library will take in the future.”
Before becoming a librarian, Herrick worked as an educational technician and substitute teacher.
Through the pandemic, the library has maintained community engagement by pivoting to online services. Community members and patrons were able to contact librarians through social media and by email or telephone.
“It has been a tough road to navigate,” Herrick said. “Our goal was just to make people feel less alone and laugh during a time where no one knew what tomorrow would bring.”
The library returned to normal operations in March.
“The pandemic reminded us that a library isn’t just a building or the books located inside it,” Herrick said. “It is the community we have built with each other as communal library users.”